2006-02-09 / Front Page
Construction industry says housing crisis has hit California
The California Building Industry Association (CBIA) continues to express alarm over what it calls an ongoing housing crisis in Southern California.
Alan Nevin, the association’s chief economist, projected in a 2006 CBIA Housing Forecast that only 185,000 to 205,000 building permits will be granted this year, far short of the 240,000 new homes needed each year.
Southern California has been experiencing a massive population boom in recent years and it’s believed that 6 million new residents will be living in the region by 2020. The population increase, coupled with the housing shortage, has the CBIA worried that it will be increasingly difficult for first-time homebuyers to find a moderately priced unit.
“Los Angeles and Ventura counties are suffering from a housing crisis,” said Holly Schroeder, chief executive officer of the Building Industry Association Greater Los Angeles Ventura Chapter. “While we have seen increases in permitting, it still consistently falls far below the needs of our region. We have to find a way to take care of our own and provide housing to those that need it and want it.”
To solve the shortage, many Southern California cities are increasing the number of permits they allow for the construction of condominium and condominium conversion units, helping to give first-time homebuyers a less-expensive alternative. But the CBIA still warns that these efforts may be too little, too late.
“In some cases, it can take nearly a decade to get new housing projects approved.That’s longer than it takes a pharmaceutical company to bring a drug to market,” Schroeder said. “The real question facing Southern California is how do we propose to help families realize the American dream and provide housing for the current and future generations living in California?”
The 2006 forecast published by the California Association of Realtors paints a similar a picture to that of the CBIA. While home sales are expected to decline by 2 percent and unsold inventories are predicted to increase, a 10 percent increase in the median price is predicted for a California home, the association said. Next year, the average home price in California is predicted to hit $573,000.
Officials are worried locally as well.
“We are concerned that a lack of sufficient housing is causing prices to grow exponentially,” said Gary Wartik, economic development manager for the city of Thousand Oaks. “We are worried that people who work in retail, as rookie officers and firefighters or as teachers, won’t be able to afford to live in our city.”
Wartik said Thousand Oaks is currently in a “slow growth mode” and limits its housing permits to 250 annually. The population cap for the city is set at 135,000.
The city of Agoura Hills finds itself in the same predicament as its larger neighbor. Except for a few planned developments south of the 101 Freeway, the city is nearing its residential capacity, officials said.
“Agoura Hills is worried about public employees being able to live within the community,” said Greg Ramirez, Agoura Hills city manager. “A year and one-half to two years ago, we implemented a first-time homebuyer program to help public employees afford housing in the area. The problem is that there are only a couple of condo developments in the area that they can afford because of the high thresholds of housing.”
While Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have increased the single-family conforming mortgage to $417,000 in 2006, the amount won’t benefit most firsttime homebuyers since it’s still 29 percent lower than the average home price in California.